Don't Check in - Check OUT- The Hotel Frank Workers' Crisis
Who was the woman who changed the bed sheets and bed spreads the last time I stayed in a hotel? I saw her pushing a cart that hid her face, a face darkened by the sun, moving from room to room, seen in glimpses then forgotten. She could have been in her 20’s or 30’s or older. When I checked out of the hotel, I left a few dollars on the bed with a note that said “thank you”. I thought about the woman’s hands—how many bed sheets had she changed, how many tears had she wiped from a child’s face, how many indifferent glances had she pretended not to notice, how many journeys were cut into the landscape of her hands and face?
I looked at my own hands, hands that write while working as a door man at a high end apartment complex in San Francisco. My hands are soft, yet feel the hard water running over them. I followed the lines etched in my brown hands that led me to the Hotel Frank in San Francisco’s Union Square. I saw her, the woman who changed sheets; I saw bell persons, desk clerks, maintenance workers and room cleaners, gathered in solidarity, boycotting the hotel for not honoring its contract with union workers. I looked at the woman who changed the linens. I saw her brown face clearly. Her hand was a tight fist.
“There’s a boycott here…Check out! Go somewhere else!”
Workers at The Hotel Frank—represented by Unite Here Local 2-- are boycotting the Management Company Provenance. Workers say that Provenance has not honored the existing union contract between workers and management. At stake are the worker’s medical coverage, pensions, sick leave and rights to due process when addressing grievances.
The Hotel Frank is in the heart of downtown San Francisco in Union Square. A Street bearing the word Union should have union workers, one would think. It is a place where tourists visit restaurants, enjoy live music and take in the sights of a world class city—a city that is increasingly hostile to working people and families. Walking the Hotel Frank’s picket line are those who have worked as many as 40 years at the hotel. Marc Norton, who worked as a bellman for 12 years, was fired in September after the hotel was auctioned off in a foreclosure sale in May 2010 by Wells Fargo bank. The bank then sold the hotel to a financial speculator called AEW Capital Management. The hotel is now managed by a company called Provenance.
The new management has not honored the long standing contract with its workers. The company has not contributed to worker’s medical coverage and pensions. Workers are now forced to work an extra half hour without pay. Housekeepers now work more rooms, skipping breaks and meal periods. According to workers, staffing levels have decreased since Provenance took over. The management company has been charged with violating Federal Labor Laws by the National labor Relations board. Both sides await the decision of the board.
“When Provenance took over, we became new, at-will employees who can be fired at any time” said Marc Norton, longtime bellman as the Frank who has been a local 2 member since 1976. A petition was circulated at the Frank requesting that Mr. Norton be appointed as shop steward—a petition every local 2 member signed. Mr. Norton was fired shortly thereafter.
Benefits are a crucial issue for workers. Under the union contract, workers contributed $10.00 a month for healthcare if they had dependents, no cost for those without dependents. Management now wants members to pay $150.00 to $250.00 a month for their health coverage.
Josephine Rivera is an organizer with Unite Here Local 2. She worked for 16 years at the Marriot, helping organize workers in a fight for representation—a fight that lasted 7 years. She walks the picket line at the Frank, her face reminiscent of Filipino workers whose work and struggle helped organize farm workers into the UFW. Ms. Rivera spoke of the challenges in organizing workers. “Some workers, such as the Filipino workers, work very hard but have the attitude that the company is being good to them so they do not talk, do not speak up. They have learned not to question authority but to respect it”. Because of unity and organization, the workers at the Frank are united and speak their minds.
Marc Norton spoke of the connection with workers in Wisconsin, whose collective bargaining rights are under assault. "We feel a lot of solidarity with the folks in Wisconsin who are fighting for worker's rights. We have to stand together. It's the only way we've won anything".
Support the workers of the Hotel Frank by supporting the boycott by its workers. Urge others to support workers and their families—workers who have put in many years to reap the benefits and equity they have earned. “There’s a boycott here! Check out! Go somewhere else!”
Join organizations like the California council of Churches and the National Urban Alliance who have pledged to boycott the Hotel Frank. Call Provenance and tell them to give their workers a fair deal:
Bashar Wali, President—(503) 295-2122 x101
Maribel Olmeda, Human Resources Manager—(503) 295-2122 x110
Stan Kott, Hotel Frank General Manager—(415) 986-2000
Dayna Zeitlin, Hotel Frank Assistant Manager—(415) 986-2000
To Listen the PNN Radio interview with Marc Norton click here